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Friday, July 06, 2007

Tennant Creek, Night Patrol, and Thirsty Thursday

Logo: Julalikari Council,
Tennant Creek, Northern Territory

So you, dear Reader, are a bit non-plussed about Mal Brough's apparent about face on grog access for Aboriginal communities? Get a dose of reality on the whole Shock and Awe Campaign.

Howard and Brough are strutting the national stage as if they are the only ones with ideas, the only ones to think of solutions. No, they are not. But they are part of the problem - the problem that has cut funding for Aboriginal initiatives, refused to listen to Aboriginal people making their needs known, failing to fund their reasonable and justifiable proposals.

Aboriginal people - particularly the women and, of them, the grandmothers - have strong views about alcohol and access to it. Most Aboriginal people, in spite of white views to the contrary, do not drink. Survey after survey outlines this. Some believe that alcohol and the way whitefellas make money out of blackfellas by selling it to them legally or illegally is nothing less than genocide.

This means that Aboriginal people, as a generality, are highly motivated to do something about alcohol usage and access. Tennant Creek, arguably, has been the place of the most creative attempts to combat grog and its effects. The Aboriginal community in Tennant Creek established the very first Night Patrol in Australia. The Night Patrol - largely staffed by women - drives around at night and picks up alcohol affected people. The violent, obstreperous ones are left for the police who take them to the local watch-house. The others are either taken home or to the shelter/drying out place.

Night Patrols have been established in numerous Aboriginal communities. They are a success story of Aboriginal Australia. For more information on the Night Patrol experience in Tennant Creek please read here and here.

But the Tennant Creek story does not begin and end with the Night Patrol. With the idea that was to become known as Thirsty Thursday, Julalikari Council - the energetic, creative, and involved Aboriginal organisation in Tennant Creek - suggested closing down the liquor outlets for one day to make the significant point of the impact no grog could have on Aboriginal communities. Read this description of Julalikari's radical proposal and its implementation by a former resident of Tennant Creek, Paul Cockrem.

Julalikari Council commissioned Miles Franklin Award winner, Alexis Wright, to document the history of the closure of the Tennant Creek pub's and the changes to licensing laws in Tennant published in Grog War.

It was good to hear Peter Dabbs on The World To-day this afternoon. Peter used to be in the Northern Territory with the Menzies School of Health. He was part of the team from Menzies who surveyed the residents of Tennant Creek as we tried one set of liquor laws for three months and another set of laws for another three months. Go here for a number of publications by Menzies relating to alcohol and Aboriginal communities. Peter Dabbs co-authored a report on the Tennant experience - d’Abbs P, Togni S, Crundall I. The Tennant Creek Liquor Licensing Trial, August 1995 – February 1996 : An Evaluation. Darwin: Menzies School of Health Research, 1996. Purchase price: AU$16:50 - which can be purchased from Menzies.